How to Drink Sake: The Ultimate Guide, Part I

Are you looking to relish in that ever-so-exquisite sake experience?

Sake is a Japanese rice wine and an important aspect of Japanese culture. Compared to other beers and wine, sake has a higher ABV usually hovering between 14 and 20 percent.

If you’re going out for sushi on a Friday night or for a business lunch, it’s possible that your meal may include sake. And, as compared to other traditional drinks, there certainly is a right and a wrong way to enjoy sake.

For those yearning to understand the proper way to drink sake or simply learn more about its roots, you’re going to want to keep reading.

It’s time to unveil the mystery of how to drink sake!

Choosing the Right Sake

Choosing the right sake can be intimidating for those that have never done it before. What comes as a surprise to most beginners is not just the selection of sake available, but also the extent of how different each bottle of sake may be.

When selecting a bottle of sake, it’s essential to pay close attention to details on the label.

For beginners, opt for “fresh sake”. This sake is lighter, soft and best suited to non-sake drinkers.

Those well accustomed to the world of sake, try a sake with a more refined palette. This type of sake is often considered a “mature sake” and goes by the name Koshu. Compared to fresh sake, mature sake is stronger and rough in taste.

You will also want to pay attention to the Sake Meter Value or, as it appears on the label, the SMV. This number describes the sugar acid level of the drink. An SMV of +5, for example, would signify that the sake is relatively dry.

On the other hand, an SMV of -2 would signify a more sweet sake. More often than not, sweet sakes are higher in alcohol volume.

You might find that it takes trying a selection of sakes to find the bottle that suits your preference. Afterall, all sake is certainly not created equal.

As your palate becomes accustomed to the flavors, you might opt for a darker, more intense flavored sake.

Serving Sake

One of the most intriguing aspects of sake happens to be the many different methods in which it presents itself.

In the most traditional sense, sake is served out of porcelain flask referred to as tokkuri. From the tokkuri, the sake is poured into small ceramic cups referred to as sakazuki or choko. If the sake is cold, it can also be served in a traditional wine glass.

Sake is also enjoyable in what is traditionally referred to as a masu. A masu is a very small, cedar wooden box that measures rice. The cup or glass holding the sake is placed inside this small box and served for enjoyment.

Drinking sake in a masu signifies an important event such as a birthday, wedding, anniversary or holiday. This masu cup compliments traditionally brewed sake as it previously brews in wooden casks.

Depending on the season, sake can either be warm, hot, chilled or at room temperature. This also depends on the quality of the sake and, of course, personal taste and experience.

Important to note high-quality sake is often served and best enjoyed at room temperatures. This is so the heating or cooling of the sake does not disrupt the original taste profile and overall flavor of the sake itself.

Drinking Sake

Due to the historic and traditional nature of sake, social rules do apply to the ceremonial drinking of sake.

Sake is meant to be served to you and vice versa. This means never pouring or refilling your own sake.

When refilling, be sure to hold your cup slightly ahead to your partner who is pouring the sake. If you wish for a refill, slightly hold out your cup to your partners for a refill.

The traditional toast for sake is Kampai. Hold your sake close to your face, allow yourself to take in the aroma and then enjoy a small sip.

Like wine, allow the taste to linger in your mouth before eventually swallowing it. This will allow you to best understand and appreciate the many different types and complex flavors of sake.

As many would expect, the many flavors of sake are best accompanied by traditional Japanese food. While there are no specific rules, the drink does pair well with sushi, seafood or any spicy dish in general.

Due to its high alcohol volume, sake also mixes well with fruit juices and as a cocktail. Those who prefer a sweeter flavor may also enjoy flavor infused sake that results in a fruity or sometimes spicy note.

Unveiling The Mysteries of How to Drink Sake

So, are you ready to delve into the world of sake?

Let’s be honest, the art of sake is not exactly a straightforward one. Before trying sake for the first time, it’s best to prepare for what exactly the experience might entail. From its notable history to its proper means of enjoyment, sake is unlike any other traditional beverage in the world.

Despite its popularity, sake is a complex drink that remains a true mystery to most. However, once you understand the ins and outs of how to drink sake, but also its origin and methods of enjoyment, it’s sure to make for a special experience.

And, of course, sake is best served alongside its traditional sushi companion. For a truly exceptional Japanese dining experience, visit The Fish Houston and pair the two together!

If you’re interested in all things sushi, sake and the like, be sure to visit our blog!